Favorite Five Books That Play with Story Structure
Well, instead of saying story structure, I should have been more generic and said something along the lines of ‘different ways to tell a story’ but that still wouldn’t have been right and also is a mouthful. So, this post is about SFF books that tell stories in interesting ways, whether that’s the POV, the structure of the story itself, or they style in which its written. The thing all these books have in common is that they’re doing something a little bit outside of the norm. 🙂
1. The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
This book has a crazy structure and it’s very confusing and even more confusing in audio. It takes place from three different POVs in three (four?) different timelines. Two of the POVs switch back and forth fairly reliably. And I think both of those are frame stories being told from characters in present time? Then at the end, just for shits and giggles, another POV character starts narrating things. Wat. What makes it even more confusing is that both of the main stories are about the same character, just at two different times. WAT. While I think the structure of this one was a turn off for some readers, I absolutely loved it. The structure helped emphasize the bat-shit craziness of the rest of the tale. Don’t try to follow it, don’t think, just let go and enjoy the ride with this one and it becomes a lot of fun. 🙂
2. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
This story is told from three different perspectives–one of which is written in second person. This is a tricky one to talk about without spoiling anything, but suffice to say the structure of this one works really well to tell the story while also giving the readers some surprises and food for thought.
3. Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan
Just recently read this one and loved it. This is entirely an epistolary novel wherein the entire story is told through a series of documents. I don’t think this is something we often see in SFF (I can think of maybe a couple of others–mostly told through letters). This story is revealed through letters, arrest reports, translation documents–really anything that can be written down. I absolutely LOVED the way this one was written, it was so fun, and while I thought that would have created a distance from the characters it didn’t because journal entries were also used. What a delightful read.
4. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
While it’s not that unusual to have a frame story–a story within a story–this sprawling tale and the way its presented has sparked hundreds of theories about how these two stories in the book ultimately connect to one another and whether the narrator of the frame tale (Kote) is reliable at all in the story he’s laying before Chronicler. So, while this may not be the most unique of the bunch, I do think the amount of conversation it has generated makes it worthy of being on this list.
5. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Speaking of stories within stories, this novel is story buried within story buried within story. There are basically three main stories being told, each a little further back in time. These stories are connected through various characters and the stories themselves are revealed through people telling characters their tales either through speech or letters. So what you have is a book of interweaving tales which result in the larger mystery being revealed to the reader.
Well, those are my picks for this week. I know there are a lot more literary books that play with structure more than these do, but for genre these are the ones that stand out in my mind that I’ve read. 🙂 What are some of your favorites with this theme? Leave me a note in the comments, I’d love to chat!